Jul 26 2016 - 1:09 pm

How two unlikely heroes added a new dimension to Hearthstone's Shaman dominance

Since the release of the League of Explorers expansion, Shaman has irritated a lot of Hearthstone players
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.

Since the release of the League of Explorers expansion, Shaman has irritated a lot of Hearthstone players. The early game power of Tunnel Trogg and the great value of Thing from Below and Flamewreathed Faceless can make playing against it a frustrating experience.

But at Seat Story Cup this weekend, a few players came equipped with a message—#NotAllShamans.

A small group of players decided to bring a taunt-heavy control Shaman that some have called Concede Shaman.

While a few others also played the deck, two unlikely heroes really showed it off in rare tournament appearances: acclaimed host and commentator Dan "Frodan" Chou and British streamer "J4CKIECHAN."

Frodan brought a version of the deck given to him by his Tempo Storm compatriot David "JustSaiyan" Shan that included the never-before-used Bog Creeper, while J4CKIECHAN brought a version of his own invention that included Frost Giants. But the strategy remains the same.

The deck employs early game control with Doomsayers and Shaman's excellent suite of AoE and damage spells including Elemental Destruction and Stormcrack. Then in the mid game, the deck will try and make a big taunt like Earth Elemental or Bog Creeper stick around so that Ancestral Spirit can be applied, creating a huge wall of taunts. Both versions of the list also include existing deathrattle minions like Cairne Bloodhoof and Sylvannas Windrunner to take advantage of multiple deathrattle shenanigans.

Once these seemingly unkillable threats are established, Faceless Manipulator or Faceless Shambler allows you to create multiple copies of them. That's about the point where your opponent usually blows their brains out.

No one expected Frodan to do anything at Seat Story, but thanks to his Shaman deck going 6-0 he managed to defeat Cong "StrifeCro" Shu and reigning world champion Sebastian "Ostkaka" Engwall. The deck dropped a game in round two and was banned in his final series, finishing with an impressive record.

Is the deck going to last in the meta? Is it actually good on ladder? Time will tell. But when it works, it's incredibly satisfying to shut down an aggro deck with a wall of taunts. 

Jan 20 2017 - 9:38 pm

Blizzard designer says Hearthstone Shamans "don’t win too often"

The deck is still stifling the meta game, however.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Image via Blizzard Entertainment

Shaman continues to dominate the Hearthstone ladder, and at this point players are resigned to it. They are just hoping that in a few months' time the new set rotation will shake things up and dislodge it from its position at the top of the tree.

Blizzard game designer Max McCall addressed the power of the class on the official forums recently—but according to him, the class doesn't have an overwhelming success rate.

"All of those [Shaman] decks are strong," McCall said. "but they are all weak against Dragon decks (like Priest and Warrior) and Reno decks. If you’re tired of losing to Shamans, play Reno Warlock. In some ways, that is fine: Shamans are popular, but there are strategies that are good against them."

"Playing Shaman isn’t a dominant strategy – again, they lose to plenty of decks – but it is still boring to play against the same class over and over again," he continues.

These comments puzzled and angered some players, who pointed to their own experience and other sources of data like the Vicious Syndicate meta report that suggested these matchups were much closer than McCall suggested. And the other matchups were much more one-sided for the Shaman. Indeed, in a second forum post McCall that Reno Warlock was only favored by half a percentage point.

Others took issue with McCall's characterization of the state of Shaman deckbuilding. According to McCall, there are aggressive decks which run pirates, and midrange decks that run pirates and jade cards. But by virtue of running pirates, the inclusion of jade cards doesn't stop a deck from being aggressive in style (something we have highlighted before).

Jade Claws and Jade Lightning, which are often the only jade cards run in the faster lists, lend themselves very well to an aggressive style. Jade Claws takes the spot of Spirit Claws, as early game weapons continue to drive aggressive Shaman decks with value and early pressure.

However, McCall did rightly admit that Shaman is a problem on ladder because of how frequently it appears. According to his data, Shaman currently makes up about 25 percent of games on ladder. This can make games feel repetitive and a grind, especially if you aren't playing one of the limited counters.

At the end of the day, Blizzard is watching Shaman closely. And if it doesn't decrease in popularity, it is prepared to make changes. But that won't help those players who feel demoralized by the ladder right now.

Jan 20 2017 - 5:37 pm

CompLexity and Luminosity win 11-game thrillers in Trinity Series debuts

The teams took each other to the limit on day two.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via DreamHack

CompLexity Gaming and Luminosity Gaming came out on top during the second matchday of the ESL Trinity Series Hearthstone league—but both teams were taken to the limit.

Luminosity Gaming, with Keaton "Chakki" Gill and Frank "Fr0zen" Zhang playing from China, claimed a 6-5 win over Team Liquid.

After Liquid left the Shaman of Luminosity unbanned, the only team to do so in the four matches of week one, Luminosity fancied their chances. But that Shaman was ineffectual, knocked out by the Druid of Team Liquid as David "Dog" Caero and his teammates piloted the Druid to three straight game wins.

That left Liquid at 5-3 and match point, but Luminosity were able to win a crucial Druid mirror and go on their own streak to take the comeback win.

In the second match of the day the experienced Cloud9 lineup of James "Firebat" Kostesich, Cong "StrifeCro" Shu, and Andrew "TidesofTime" Biessener nearly pulled off a similar comeback.

Cloud9 and CompLexity Gaming traded games back and forth until CompLexity's Reno Mage, driven by Jan "SuperJJ" Janssen, took three straight wins to put them in the same position at 5-3. TidesofTime attempted to reverse the tide with Reno Warlock and fought back to 5-5, but Cloud9 were forced to use their combo pieces early and CompLexity won the match with a Reno Warlock of their own.

After beating Alliance 6-0 in the first match of the tournament, G2 Esports sit atop the table after the first week of games.

Week two will see Alliance take on CompLexity, Luminosity against Tempo Storm, G2 versus Virtus Pro, and Cloud9 will play Team Liquid.